I rubbed my eyes, stepped out from the warmth of the kunai house and shivered. The morning cold on the mountain had got to me so quickly. My breath hung in the chilled air.
Suddenly, I found myself pitching over, propelled by a sudden push from behind and sprawling headfirst. I sat up rubbed at the scratches on my face.
The offender, who was unfortunately my cousin, grinned down at me. “Hello,” he smirked and hopped as I kicked out at him from below. I reached to drag him down, but he leapt out of reach. “Justin!” I yelled.
He laughed and rolled his eyes. “Come on, let’s go down to the lake.”
“Are you kidding, we’re not supposed to go there!”
“Scaredy cat,” he taunted
“Am not,” I retorted.
“The water’s best, now. Come on. The adults won’t have to know. I’m a landowner, you don’t have to worry?”
I bit my lip, frowning. Daddy had sternly instructed that under no circumstances were we to swim or wash in the lake.
“I don’t think we should go,” I replied.
“Suit yourself,” came the short reply and I watched as Justin stood up and started walking.
I sighed in resignation and followed. Frankly I was curious as to why we couldn’t enter the lake. It was like some kind of old-fashioned taboo.
Nearing the lake, I felt a sudden sense of foreboding and stopped. “Justin, I think we should go back,” I called.
There was no indication he’d heard me. Not wanting be alone, I felt I had no choice but to follow.
I gasped as the lake came into view, while Justin let out a low whistle. This was beyond normal beauty, it was a piece of heaven on earth. The lake was dark blue like the ocean and glistened in the sun’s reflection. The surrounding trees were so green. The place was undisturbed like a land before time.
As we reached the lake’s edge, Justin dipped in a toe. “Wow, no shallows, Nani, it goes straight down.”
I shivered. “It doesn’t look normal Justin, forget it, let’s go home.”
“Scaredy, eh”, he taunted again.
“I don’t care,” I burst out, “this place gives me the creeps, let’s go.”
“Look you stand watch and I’ll swim”. And with that Justin stripped off his shirt and plunged in.
Not so far away, under a tree, I spotted a canoe. My foreboding had become stronger and I steeled myself to do the unthinkable.
I pushed the canoe into the water and clambered in, slowly pushing off the bank.
Justin grinned and dived, surfacing again on the other side of the canoe.
“You’re such a sight, I’m pushing the canoe over.” He grinned and dived. And disappeared.
Then I felt it - a force pulling the canoe towards the centre of the lake. I wanted to scream but no sound came forth. I realised I was caught in the edge of a whirlpool that was sucking me in. I bit my lip so hard it bled. I was paralysed with fear.
As the canoe overturned I pulled under, spinning deep into the vortex. I blacked out.
When I opened my eyes, I was still underwater but breathing. It was dark yet something was holding me and swimming down with me. I tried to look at my rescuer, but it was too dark to see him.
Just then I spotted a light in the distance. I held on and we swam closer. Then I saw the trees. They were huge, majestic and purple. They spread for miles and miles across the floor of the lake.
In the dull light I looked up to see my rescuer, a huge snake and I was in its coils. I wanted to scream but remembered something important. When you see strange things, do not show fear, for if you do they’ll take your soul.
I shuddered, and the snake let me go and pushed me forward. I tried to smile but couldn’t. Then I looked down and my eyes widened at the sight of dead bones scattered on the lake floor. Human bones.
That was when I screamed.